Teachers across RI celebrated at summit

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On October 26 and 27, teachers from across Rhode Island were celebrated for doing what they love and doing it well. The Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers Convening (ECET2RI) two-day event took place at the Crowne Plaza in Warwick. Teachers were nominated to be recognized and celebrated for their work by the recommendation of a colleague and/or administrator who identified them as an emerging teacher leader, based on their leadership skills and the potential they’ve demonstrated.

The day consisted of keynote speakers, breakout sessions on a variety of topics, as well as time for collaboration and learning, for celebration and for self-care. The theme for the event was “Teachers-the anchors of education.”

William M. Davies Career and Technical School students were on hand creating and serving delectable desserts and were also responsible for making the anchor-themed centerpieces which were on every table and seen throughout the building.

ECET2RI was spearheaded by a team of educators from Rhode Island who were nominated and selected to attend the national convening in January 2016, sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in San Diego, California. Those educators, Jennifer Hines, Crystal Monteiro, Lisa Tenreiro and Elisabeth Ridder, in turn brought the event to Rhode Island so that local teacher leaders could experience the opportunities for celebration, collaboration and learning that they had, and to be able to make connections at the state level which could then be expanded beyond the two-day event. This year’s event included two past participants on its planning team, Kathleen Torregrossa and Paula Pinto.

Emcee Lisa Tenreiro encouraged the guests to enjoy the time together and likened the event to being on a cruise.

“I hope you feel the love, that you feel loved and appreciated,” she said.

She introduced Commissioner Ken Wagner who welcomed the teachers, and spoke to them about the possible changes on the horizon for professional development and certification.

The morning session included the first “Cultivating a Calling” speaker, Michael Miele of the Highlander Institute, who spoke of his path from being a student himself, through being a more traditional teacher, to evolving into one who was more innovative.

Miele also ran two of the breakout sessions, which took place throughout the day, including “Pathways to Personalization” and “Project Based Learning.” In addition to those two offerings, the teachers had a wide variety of breakout sessions to choose from, including “Tech Tools for Formative Assessment,” “Diversity Talks-Implicit Bias,” “Mindfulness,” “Discovering the Leader Within,” and “Secret Agents of Kindness.” Later on in the day, Johnston’s Deb Ramm was the second keynote speaker.

A Digital Cafe was open for the duration of the conference, allowing teachers to experience technology such as new applications and devices, best practices for integration, and social media assistance.

There were also opportunities for networking and collaboration, including cross state connection-building activities. There was also an emphasis on teachers’ self-care, time built in to the schedule which forced teachers to take a break, to take time to take care of themselves through activities such as art, yoga, taking a walk or a swim in the pool or learning to play the ukulele.

It is the hope of the organizers that ECET2RI will help to support teachers who are looking to stay in the classroom but wish to take on a leadership role in their buildings and districts. “You can be a leader from within the classroom, and this is the route to do it,” Torregrossa said. “There are so many pathways to get into teacher leader positions. We need team leaders in the buildings. They are critical to the operation of the schools. We have content leaders at the middle schools, program supervisors and other leadership positions like that exist for teachers.”

Hines noted that another goal is for teachers to end the weekend armed with tools and knowledge to take back to their buildings as well as ways to celebrate and elevate their own colleagues. The days included ideas that teachers can replicate beyond the weekend, such as “shoutouts,” which recognize people and their contributions, and “lightbulb” moments to draw attention to great ideas.

“Our goal for Saturday is to have the teachers fill out their action plans and to decide what the change is that they want to see happen in their buildings,” Hines said.

The founders and organizers also hope that the ECET2RI event will only grow and expand in the coming years.

“Over the past three years we have expanded within the ECET2RI event,” said Monteiro. “Now we hope to push it beyond the weekend, and to have teachers meet and collaborate after they leave. We want them to be able to celebrate their profession, support each other and to find their tribe. We want them to be able to collaborate beyond their district lines.” To that end they are hoping to have ECET Resets, where teachers who attended the main event can talk about its impact on their work, share their leadership roles, lead professional development sessions, and find a way to connect with their colleagues beyond their own district; to support each other statewide and grow a network of teacher leaders.

“We want to keep this going,” said Monteiro. “This is the first time we’re trying to reach out beyond this day, to make this about more than a small group of teachers.”

It is also their hope that teachers who are celebrated one year will return the next as volunteers and in other key roles to help make future events a success.

“It’s the giving of their time, the paying it forward because of their experiences,” said Monteiro. “We want this to be like a pebble, a ripple effect.” 

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